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Biannual X360 dashboard update

Due this week. Full details.

This week will see Microsoft update Xbox 360 with all those spangly new features we mentioned last week.

The company's said it hopes to have the first of its 2006 biannual dashboard updates ready to go within the next few days, offering background-downloading capability and improving general navigation as well as tweaking media playback and laying the groundwork for the introduction this Christmas of the Xbox 360 Vision Camera peripheral.

The update, which will also work on the Xbox 360 Core System despite that package's lack of a hard disk, allows you to create a download queue of up to six files and prioritise them - eliminating one of the most bitched about dashboard problems at a stroke - as well as letting you launch any trailers or demos or apply themes through a pop-up notification once the download completes.

The downloads will obviously go on in the background, allowing you to continue navigating, queuing up files and even playing games - the only point at which the 360 pauses the download session is during online multiplay, to avoid lag issues, and it's still possible to resume downloads once that's finished without losing progress. Likewise, you can resume incomplete downloads if you need to power down the 360 and come back to it later.

Changes to interface include a new Media And Entertainment category in Marketplace, allowing you to list files in various new categories - trailers, short films, music videos, etc. - without having everything unhelpfully grouped together. Elsewhere you can list game demos by genre, while themes and gamer pictures have their own area and game trailers are given space to breathe away from the movie ones.

Other additions include 16x fast-forward and rewind on videos downloaded through Marketplace, improved CDDB usage for downloading your MP3s' and CDs' track names, and the facility to resume DVD playback from where it last ended.

And if you're sick of the 360 going straight into a game when you simply want to watch a trailer or play on Live Arcade, and can't be bothered to eject the disc tray every time you turn it on with this in mind, you can now flick a switch to make the console ignore the disc and go into the dash when you turn it on. Or, if you prefer the auto-play, you can stick with that.

All of that due this week then - we'll let you know when. Microsoft's not done there, it says, and hopes to have another update out in around six months' time, which not entirely unsurprisingly it says will include more new features and refinements.